Monday, July 1, 2013

Residential home owners need to dispose of hazardous waste

You never want an unsuspecting individual to open or touch your mess

Hazardous Waste Disposal

Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
Sara Marshall peers into a drop-off point for recycling in Nantucket. The town is a leader in "zero waste." 

At Yellowstone National Park, the clear soda cups and white utensils are not your typical cafe-counter garbage. Made of plant-based plastics, they dissolve magically when heated for more than a few minutes.
At Ecco, a popular restaurant in Atlanta, waiters no longer scrape food scraps into the trash bin. Uneaten morsels are dumped into five-gallon pails and taken to a compost heap out back.
And at eight of its North American plants, Honda is recycling so diligently that the factories have gotten rid of their trash Dumpsters altogether.
Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as “zero waste” is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations.
The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can.
Though born of idealism, the zero-waste philosophy is now propelled by sobering realities, like the growing difficulty of securing permits for new landfills and an awareness that organic decay in landfills releases methane that helps warm the earth’s atmosphere.
“Nobody wants a landfill sited anywhere near them, including in rural areas,” said Jon D. Johnston, a materials management branch chief for the Environmental Protection Agency who is helping to lead the zero-waste movement in the Southeast. “We’ve come to this realization that landfill is valuable and we can’t bury things that don’t need to be buried.”
Americans are still the undisputed champions of trash, dumping 4.6 pounds per person per day, according to the E.P.A.’s most recent figures. More than half of that ends up in landfills or is incinerated.
But places like the island resort community of Nantucket offer a glimpse of the future. Running out of landfill space and worried about the cost of shipping trash 30 miles to the mainland, it moved to a strict trash policy more than a decade ago, said Jeffrey Willett, director of public works on the island.
The town, with the blessing of residents concerned about tax increases, mandates the recycling not only of commonly reprocessed items like aluminum, glass and paper but also of tires, batteries and household appliances.
Jim Lentowski, executive director of the nonprofit Nantucket Conservation Foundation and a year-round resident since 1971, said that sorting trash and delivering it to the local recycling and disposal complex had become a matter of course for most residents.
The complex also has a garagelike structure where residents can drop off books and clothing and other reusable items for others to take home.
The 100-car parking lot at the landfill is a lively meeting place for locals, Mr. Lentowski added. “Saturday morning during election season, politicians hang out there and hand out campaign buttons,” he said. “If you want to get a pulse on the community, that is a great spot to go.”
Mr. Willett said that while the amount of trash that island residents carted to the dump had remained steady, the proportion going into the landfill had plummeted to 8 percent.
By contrast, Massachusetts residents as a whole send an average of 66 percent of their trash to a landfill or incinerator. Although Mr. Willett has lectured about the Nantucket model around the country, most communities still lack the infrastructure to set a zero-waste target.
Aside from the difficulty of persuading residents and businesses to divide their trash, many towns and municipalities have been unwilling to make the significant capital investments in machines like composters that can process food and yard waste. Yet attitudes are shifting, and cities like San Francisco and Seattle are at the forefront of the changeover. Both of those cities have adopted plans for a shift to zero-waste practices and are collecting organic waste curbside in residential areas for composting.
Food waste, which the E.P.A. says accounts for about 13 percent of total trash nationally — and much more when recyclables are factored out of the total — is viewed as the next big frontier.
When apple cores, stale bread and last week’s leftovers go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. What is more, when sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose. If composted, however, the food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product.
Green Foodservice Alliance, a division of the Georgia Restaurant Association, has been adding restaurants throughout Atlanta and its suburbs to its so-called zero-waste zones. And companies are springing up to meet the growth in demand from restaurants for recycling and compost haulers.
Steve Simon, a partner in Fifth Group, a company that owns Ecco and four other restaurants in the Atlanta area, said that the hardest part of participating in the alliance’s zero-waste-zone program was not training his staff but finding reliable haulers.
“There are now two in town, and neither is a year old, so it is a very tentative situation,” Mr. Simon said.
Still, he said he had little doubt that the hauling sector would grow and that all five of the restaurants would eventually be waste-free.
Packaging is also quickly evolving as part of the zero-waste movement. Bioplastics like the forks at Yellowstone, made from plant materials like cornstarch that mimic plastic, are used to manufacture a growing number of items that are compostable.
Steve Mojo, executive director of the Biodegradable Products Institute, a nonprofit organization that certifies such products, said that the number of companies making compostable products for food service providers had doubled since 2006 and that many had moved on to items like shopping bags and food packaging.
The transition to zero waste, however, has its pitfalls.
Josephine Miller, an environmental official for the city of Santa Monica, Calif., which bans the use of polystyrene foam containers, said that some citizens had unwittingly put the plant-based alternatives into cans for recycling, where they had melted and had gummed up the works. Yellowstone and some institutions have asked manufacturers to mark some biodegradable items with a brown or green stripe.
Yet even with these clearer design cues, customers will have to be taught to think about the destination of every throwaway if the zero-waste philosophy is to prevail, environmental officials say.
“Technology exists, but a lot of education still needs to be done,” said Mr. Johnston of the E.P.A.
He expects private companies and businesses to move faster than private citizens because momentum can be driven by one person at the top.
“It will take a lot longer to get average Americans to compost,” Mr. Johnston said. “Reaching down to my household and yours is the greatest challenge.”

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Climbers Recount Murder on Famous Pakistan Peak

The coffin of a killed climber.

Pakistani rescuers stand by the coffin of a Slovakian climber killed by gunmen on Pakistan's Nanga Parbat.
Photograph by Farooq Naeem, AFP/Getty Images

Late last Saturday night, gunmen dressed in paramilitary uniforms entered Base Camp at Nanga Parbat, Pakistan's second-highest peak, and murdered ten foreign mountaineers and a Pakistani cook. A spokesman for an Islamist militant group later claimed credit for the killings. It was the first time climbers had been targeted in that manner in Pakistan. The victims included three Ukrainians, three Chinese, two Slovaks, a Nepali, a Pakistani, and a Lithuanian named Ernest Marksaitis.

Sher Khan, a Pakistani climber, returned to Base Camp at Nanga Parbat at about two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, June 22. He'd been suffering from the effects of high altitude at Camp 1 and wanted to rest. Besides the other mountaineers at Base Camp, many of whom were also sick, there were about a dozen members of the staff, mostly local people. After a cup of light soup, he climbed into his sleeping bag, still not feeling well.

In this interview, he tells National Geographic what happened on the mountain that night.

What was the first sign of trouble?

I woke up suddenly around 9:30 [in the evening]. I heard noises around my tent. What's going on, I thought. Is somebody fighting or what? I opened my tent flap a little and saw a person carrying a Russian Kalashnikov about 20 meters away. He was wearing a local camouflage uniform.
Then right in front of my tent I saw someone with a terrorist. His name was Ernest, a climber from Lithuania. And he was saying, "I am not American. I am not American."

From another direction I heard, "Go out. Go out. Go, go." They were trying to pull the Chinese out from their tents. "Taliban! Al-Qaeda! Surrender!" They were trying to tell the foreigners to surrender.
Then I saw two people coming toward my tent with a huge Kalashnikov and some knives in their hands. I was trying to hide. The muzzle of the gun came inside my tent and one person said, "Go! Go!" I said, "Look, I'm Pakistani. I'm from Hunza. I am Ismaili. Please."

I tried to recall the Kalima prayer. They said, "Come out!" They were speaking Urdu [spoken in Pakistan] mostly. Then sometimes Pashto [spoken in Afghanistan]. A few words in Shina, the local language. I tried to get out of the tent and they suddenly said, stop! "Do you have money?" I said, yes, I have a little. They said, okay get out the money. So I tried to get back into the tent to get the money, but they kicked my head with their boots and pulled me out of the tent.

They said, 'We don't need you to collect the money. Just go.' They pointed this gun to my head and took me to this line of other people and tied me with a rope. What I saw then was eight or nine people tied with a rope.There some Pakistani people also. Some Ukrainian people. This poor Ernest was also tied. And one Nepali was also tied. And of course, it was my time turn for them to tie me. They put me next to a Ukrainian guy on the far right side.

They took a little time to bring out more people. They went to each and every tent. "Taliban, Al-Qaeda. Surrender." They were looking for foreign tourists. They pointed a gun at me and a camp cook and said, "We know you can speak English. Ask them who has money in their tents." They threatened the climbers. "If we find money in your tent that you are hiding, we are going to shoot you." Everybody was scared. We all said, yes, we have money. The foreigners said, yes, we have Euros. Yes, we have dollars. And one by one they took climbers to their different tents and collected the money.

Then they asked for satellite phones. "Who has Thuraya phones?" The climbers said "yes, we have Thuraya phones, we have walkie-talkies." Again they took them to the tents and collected the Thuraya phones. But this time they destroyed all the phones and walkie talkies. Some they shot with Kalashnikovs. Some they destroyed with stones. Whatever electronics they found, like laptops, solar panels, they destroyed them with stones and with their feet.

All this time I was begging them, please, we are Muslim, Ismaili from Hunza. We are Pakistanis. Why are you doing this?

Then suddenly one person came to me and said, okay, if you are a Muslim, tell me this, this, and this about morning prayer. But we Ismaili say a different prayer. So I was helpless and kept quiet. Then another person said to the first one, "Don't you know that these Ismaili people from Hunza don't offer the same prayer?" So this ugly man went away from my face.

Then somebody said, "Okay, let's separate these three people from Hunza from the rope." So they released us, but told us, "Don't try to look up. Stay on your knees."

Then one person told the rest of the row, the Ukrainian people, the poor Nepali and the Pakistani guy, Chinese people, to turn their faces in the other direction. So that they could shoot them, you know. But I was thinking, maybe they are not going to shoot them. Maybe they are robbers. They've got the money and everything. Maybe they are going to just go away.

But unfortunately, when they started to move them in opposite directions, I was just stunned. I couldn't see what was going on. I was on my knees, bent down, holding my body.

Then suddenly I heard the sound of shooting. I looked a little up and what I saw was this poor Ukrainian guy, who had been tied with me, I saw him sitting down. Then after that moment, the shooting started in bursts. Three times. Brrrr. Brrrr. Brrrr. Three times like that. Then the leader, this stupid ugly man, said, "Now stop firing. Don't fire anybody." Then that son of a bitch came in between the dead bodies and he personally shot them one by one. Dun. Dun. Dun. Every body he shot down. And then afterward we heard slogans, like Allahu Akbar. Salam Zindabad. Osama bin Laden Zindabad. And one stupid person said, "Today these people are revenge for Osama bin Laden."

Then they were about fifty feet away and gathered for a while. Then they dispersed from that point downward.

Suddenly it was totally quiet. It was a very silent moment. We waited for a little while more, and we rushed to the kitchen where our cook found a knife and our hands were finally freed. I tried to find a radio in my tent. I found two walkie talkies and tried to contact my team mates at Camp 2. I said, please, Camp 2, this is an emergency, can you hear me? But everybody must have been sleeping. I went to each and every tent looking for a Thuraya.

Then my Hunza friends said, look, if they come again, they're going to kill us. We need to go somewhere safe. So we tried to go toward Camp 1, but we didn't have the right clothes or shoes because they had pulled us from our sleeping bags. But we were really in terror. So the three of us climbed about 300 meters up the mountain to where we could look down on Base Camp. It was about one o'clock and we found a kind of cave. We tried to hug each other to get a little heat. We stayed there all night. We kept trying to contact Camp 2, but I heard nothing until 7:30 in the morning. I kept my radio on. Suddenly I heard one of my friends, Karim. I told him what had happened, that people had died. I was crying.

Karim contacted Nazir Sabir, a famous climber, who said that the Army was already on the move. They were on the way with helicopters. So don't move until they land at Base Camp, he said.

After the gunmen left Base Camp, did anyone check to see if the climbers were all dead?

At that moment, it was very hard to stay in that place. To get closer to the bodies. It was a really hard moment. But some people, including myself, heard a strange noise from the body of one person. As if he was still alive. Others were completely quiet. One person, he was doing something like snoring. We heard that sound for a little while before we left that camp. But when I asked some local people, staff, who were tied in a tent nearby, they said, you know, we were hearing that snoring sound until maybe two o'clock in the morning. It could be that he was alive. I don't know.

It sounds just horrible.

You know, to this day, I can't sleep. It was a week ago. Afterward the Army took me and some of my friends for interrogation. They asked a lot of questions. What kind of people were they? What kind of accent did they have? I answered a lot of questions. Now I can't sleep. But if I do, I wake up suddenly with any noises. It's also difficult for me to go into a room. Because I feel like it's a tent and somebody is going to come get me at gunpoint. It's very difficult.

Aleksandra Dzik, a young climber from Poland, was also on the mountain that night. But she, like 30 or so other mountaineers, was higher on the peak at Camp 2 when the killings occurred. As leader of the International Nanga Parbat Expedition 2013, Dzik was helping her team of 20 prepare for an ascent of the peak when she heard the news. Ernest was a member of her team.
In this interview, she tells National Geographic what she saw and heard on the mountain.

How did you learn of the attack?
It was about 6 in the morning and we heard about it from Karim Hayat, a Pakistani climber who had a tent near us at Camp 2. He'd gotten a call from his climbing partner, Sher Khan, who was at Base Camp. Khan said the Taliban had tied him up and carried him out of his tent and stood him up right next to the people who were shot. But in the end they didn't shoot him. He was in shock. When he managed to untie his hands, he called Karim and warned him not to come down from Camp 2.
Of course, when we heard what had happened, we tried to get in touch with Ernest, the only member of our team who was still at Base Camp. Ernest had decided to rest for a few days, because he was sick. He had stomach problems. But he didn't reply. We were hoping maybe he had lost his radio and escaped. Unfortunately, it wasn't true. Other expeditions were also calling their members at Base Camp, but only getting silence.

We decided to go back down to Base Camp. By the time we arrived, the Army was already there and the bodies had been taken away.

It must have been a shock.

We couldn't believe it. We are climbers. Every one of us has lost friends in the mountains. But it was always by the power of nature. It's a game we all play. We accept the risk.

But here the deaths at Base Camp were caused by people. It was just terrible.

Someone said to us, I will show you the place where they were all put together, taken from their tents, and shot dead. There was blood on the grass. It was the most terrible moment. There was also white down, because they had been wearing down suits. And there were shells from the gun.

Before the attack, a Slovakian climber at Camp 2 had also been having stomach problems. So his climbing partner, another Slovakian, and his team leader, a Ukrainian, decided to take him back down to Base Camp. They thought that would be the safest place for a sick person, but in fact they all went to the one place that was the most dangerous, and they were killed there.

That night we were quite afraid. We put several tents together with three or four people in each small tent to be close together.

The next day we were evacuated by Army helicopters to an army base. Then an Army aircraft took us to Islamabad, where our agencies and embassies got us a hotel.

Do you feel safe now in Pakistan?

You know, what can we do? We are quite scared. More anxious than before. When we go out in the city, we are more careful how we dress, how we look.

Before when we came to Pakistan, we got used to the terrorism in this country, where people unfortunately are killed every day. But we always felt that it didn't concern us, that it was the problem of the Pakistanis and we were guests in their country. We believed that we were untouchable.
Now we do not feel safe on the streets, but we try to behave normally any way. Because it's the only thing we can do against terrorism. To live normally. Not to give terrorists what they want—to make us hide.


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